passive house in urban area

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    Hi, I’m a graduate student working on my thesis project called ” Eco-Solo” which means that people live in one person household would consume more energy than other kinds of household.
    My direction is to create cohousing in high density urban area so people can share energy and equipment. Instead of conserve energy I also try to apply passive technics into apartment in urban area. However, as far as I research, most passive technic seems can only apply on “house” and “suburbs” . Do you think it is possible to create net zero home in apartment (for example contains 5 floors) in urban area?


    Per square foot, smaller homes tend to use more energy than larger homes. This is due to a concentration of all a home’s appliances packed into a small space and a lower ratio of floor area to external surfaces. Larger homes have appliance and lighting loads spread over a larger floor area and can have a higher ratio of floor area to external surface area; this creates the illusion that they use less energy. However, when looking at density of occupants in small units in multifamily homes, compared to large single family homes, the balance changes in favor of the compact arrangement of multifamily buildings. Also, multifamily buildings often have shared equipment for water heating, space heating and sometimes cooling. They realize a reduction in energy use for heating and cooling because of adiabatic walls, ceilings and floors – these are surfaces abutting neighboring units and not outdoors. While there are many prominent articles on single family passive homes in rural and suburban areas, passive multifamily homes are also built to conserve energy.

    The most stringent, credible and attainable standard in the United States for this type of building is the Passive House standard from Passive House Institute US, (PHIUS) headquartered in Urbana, IL. The strength of the Passive House approach is a highly integrated design which optimizes orientation, maximizes capture of solar energy in winter, shades solar gain in summer, significantly lowers air leakage (air infiltration and exfiltration), reduces thermal bridging in the envelope, super-insulates the envelope, and employs highly efficient heat recovery ventilation for indoor air quality. Appliances, lighting, electronics and other devices are also carefully selected for maximum efficiency. PHIUS offers classes around the country for designers, and in many cities, there are hobby or trade groups with monthly educational meetings which you can attend and learn more. As for creating an urban, 5-story apartment as a net zero building, this can be done in some climates, but having access to enough renewable energy will be challenging. It may require using more than the building’s roof and façade for solar panels. Additional generation capacity might need to be built in a field, over a parking lot or using wind turbines on the roof. However, money is almost always best spent on reducing the building’s need for energy rather than finding more ways to generate it.

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